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ORIGIN OF THE MISHNA, GEMARA, MASORITES, &c.

725

Julian Pe- translation of the Scriptures is quoted even by the Jerusalem Asia Minor. riod, 4799. Gemarists. The Sanhedrim bad ‘now removed from Jabneb to Vulgar

Æra, Usha and Shepbaraim. 96.

R. Simeon was succeeded by his son, R. Judah the Holy. He was held in very high estimation among his countrymen, and is said to have been much valued by one of the Antonines. It was R. Judah who caused the traditional law to be collected into one mass. This is called the Mishoah, and is the great code by which the Jews still prosess to be regulated. The number of pupils who might be the preservers of this code of traditionary law was daily diminishing, and he resolved therefore to commit it to writing, that it might be preserved. He appointed teachers. of these traditions also in all the cities remaining to the Jewish name. The Sanhedrim, in bis reign, removed to Bethshuarain, Tsipporis, and Tiberias. R. Judab compiled the Mishnah, as some traditions relate, in the year 190, in the latter end of the reign of Commodus; but, as others affirm, in the year 220, ono hundred and fifty years after the destruction of the city.

R. Judah was succeeded by his son R. Chaninah, in whose presidency we first read of the commentaries on the Mishna, which are called the Gemara. The Mishna, which is the text of the traditional law, and the Gemara, which is the comment, make up together the Talmud. The Targums are commentaries on Scripture.

R. Chaninab was succeeded by R. Jochanan, who was president of the Sanhedrim at Tiberias eighty years. Though the country abounded with schools, and the surviving Jews made every effort in their power to perpetuate their pow corrupt religion, no school or college obtained so much celebrity as that at Tiberias. Jerome was instructed by a learned man of Tiberias; and it was most probably about this time, that that edition of the Hebrew Bible was prepared, which has erer been of high authority among both Jews and Christians; the edition of the Masorets, or, as they are more generally called, the Masorites.

This term is derived from a Hebrew word, signifying tradition. The Masorites were the learned Jews of Tiberias, who, being anxious before their nation was finally separated, to secure the sacred text from corruption, prepared an edition of the Old Testament, in which tbey marked, by certaio arbitrary vowel points, accents, and pauses, the traditionary pronunciation of every word, The Bibles which the Jews read in their synagogues are now, and it is believed have always been, written without the vowel points; but the minister is required to read each chapter according to the traditionary sounds of the words, which are preserved in tbe poioted Bibles; and an inspector or superintendant stands by him when he reads, to correct any error. This pronunciation is not borrowed from the Masoretic Bible, as I bave been informed by some learned Jews, whom I consulted on this matter; but it is the traditionary mode of reading which has been handed down from remote antiquity. Should this statement be correct, it appears to afford one very satisfactory argument, that the Masoretic punctuation is entitled to more respect than many moderu Hebraists entertain for it. This, however, is not the place to enter upon this discus. sion. The Masorets, by their great care and diligence, have left us an edition of the Old Testament, which secures the text from all interpolations, while it checks also the licentiousness of conjectural criticism, and gives a definite meaning to many obscure passages; at the same time it by no means precludes the labours of the learned from aiming at greater accuracy in their attempts to understand Scripture, as the sense which the Masorets may have put upon any passage, can only be said to

Jalian Pe- be bighly probable: the meaning of Seripture in all cases being Asia Mino.
riod, 4799. derivable from the words, and not from the vowel points, or any
Vulgar Æra, arbitrary divisions. It is probable, says Bishop Marsb (c), that
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the Masoretic text was formed from a collation of manuscripts,
if so, it is still more valuable. The Masorets, as is well known,
have counted every word and letter, that no changes shall be
made: and if the copies of the Old Testament, which Christians
possessed, and from which, with the apostles themselves, they
derive irrefragable arguments for tbe Messiabsbip of Jesus of
Nazareth, is demonstrated, bo impugned by the Jews, they way
refer to the Masoretic edition, and urge the same arguments
from that copy of the Scriptures, upon which the Jews place the
highest value.

The precise time when the Masorets of Tiberias completed
this useful labour is not known. The Providence of God pre-
served the appearance of a government among the Jews till
this great work was completed, and the purity of the inspired
volume secured from all possibility of corruption. They were
then permitted to undergo the whole of the terrible panish-
ments predicted by Moses and their prophets. So long as they
had a president and a Sanhedrim in the Holy Land, they had a
common country, though they had ceased to have a sacrifice, a
temple, a prophet, or a king. Many of their learned men went
to Babylon, the schools of which place had begun to be more ce-
lebrated than those of Judea. To detail the further history of
the cruelties they have practised, and the persecutions they have
endured-tbe history of their patience, their sufferings--their
depressed poverty-their industrious accumulation of wealth-
their cultivation of the art of medicine--their fortunes in every
country in the world--the deadly hatred, and fierce and bitter
scorn to which they were condemned for many centuries and
the mild and gentle treatment which they now receive, with
but few exceptions, among the Mohammedans, and inferior
classes in Catholic countries-the account also of their rapidly
increasing influence in the present state of society, when a sup-
ply of money from a few, or even from one, wealthy individual,
jo macy instances may decide the destiny, religion, and liberty
of kings and people to detail all these wonderful incidents in
the bistory of these miraculonsly preserved people, would lead
me far beyond my present purpose. It is sufficient only to say,
that their preservation has been effected by means so totally
contrary to the general laws of society ; by which both in adver,
sity and prosperity, nations, when settled among each other,
uniformly amalgamate into one people ; that if we had ao Serip-
ture to guide us, we might justly inser they were preserved by
the Providence of God for some extraordinary destiny, What
this destiny will be, we are told by the pages of Revelation-
". They shall be gathered out of all people, and by an Exodus
from all countries more wonderful than that of their fathers
from Egypt, they shall go up to their own country, and plant-
ing the vine and the olive on the hills and in the vallies of their
fathers, they shall, after much tribulation, rejoice in the domi-
nion of their Messiah, the manifested God of their fathers, the
crucified Jesus of the Christians.”

We will now return to the history of the Christian Church. Though the view which may be now taken of the effects of Christianity on buman happiness, is unavoidably brief and imperfect, the memory will be assisted by a regular division of the subject.

I. The first stage is the state of the Christian Church from the death of St. John to the establishment of the persecuted faith by Constantine.

II. From thence to the rise of the Papal power.

OBJECT, DESIGN, AND MEANING OF CHRISTIANITY. 727 Julian Pe- III. The progress and triumph of the Church of Rome. Asia Minor. riod, 4799. IV. The Reformation, both iv its good and bad effects. Vulgar Æra, V. And the subsequent history of Christianity, particularly 96.

in England; with the prospect of its future dominion over all
mankind, as declared in the prophecies of the Old and New
Testament.

I. The state of the Christian Church from the death of St.
John to the death of Constantine.

In closing the volumes wbich it was necessary to peruse, for
the drawing up of the following brief abstract of Ecclesiastical
History, it was impossible to avoid contrasting the batred and
dissensions which have prevailed within the later centuries
among Christians with the union and harmony, which excited the
surprise of their enemies, in the earlier ages of their faith. Al-
though this difference can only be imputed to the infirmities,
crrors, or vices which bave debased and corrupted the Churches,
and their members, the faults of individuals bave too frequently
been referred to tbe religion they profess. It may be necessary,
therefore, to define the meaning of Christianity, that by con-
stantly keeping before us one certain definite view of the reli-
gion which was now established, we may not confound with it
any one of the more or less extensive sects, or sectlings,
churches, or parties, which have endeavoured to identify their
peculiar causes with that of Christianity, and their several titles
with the exclusive name of Christian.

Christianity is the completed revelation of those sanctions of, and motives to, virtue, which the uoassisted reason of man could not have discovered. Its object is to promote the present and future happiness of the human race, which can only be effectually secured by virtuous principles and habits. One sys. tem of religion is distinguished from another, by the opinions it teaches, the conduct it enforces, the institutions it establishes, and the means which it adopts for its preservation. The fundamental opinions, or essential doctrines of Christianity, may be included in these three-that the nature of man is now different from that with which bis first parents were created--that a Divine Being undertook to recover mankind from this state of degradation, by offering bimself as an atonement, after a life of blamelessness and purity, and by rising from the dead, to demonstrate the certainty of our own resurrection-that divine assistance is afforded to all those who desire to be restored to that condition in which man was originally created.

The conduct which Christianity requires, does not extend to outward morality only, but to internal purity of motive, to spirituality of disposition, and, as far as possible, to a change of pature.

The Scriptural institutions of Christianity are the commemorations of the facts which prove the truth of its doctrines. They are few, but important. The observance of the first day in (the week) is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, and a declaration of the truth of our own. In haptism, we commemorate the descent of the Spirit, and assert the necessity of a Divine influence, to recover man from the fall. In the other sacrament, of the Lord's Supper, we commemorate the crucifixion, and profess our belief in the atonement. The observance of Easter is also mentioned in Scripture, as the time of the more solemn commemoration of our Lord's resurrection.

The scriptural means by which the knowledge of the Christian religion is to be preserved in the world, are the perpetual observance of the institutions, and the right interpretation of the completed Scriptures. To secure these great objects, the divine Founder of Christianity appointed twelve teachers, and after them he appeared from the invisible state to appoint apo..

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Jolian Pe- ther, who should establish societies from among the mass of Asia Mias
riod, 4799. mankiod, and set apart teachers to instract the people, inter.
Vulgar Ara, pret the Scriptures, and maintain the institutions of the new

religion. The apostles were equal among themselves. They
governed the whole visible Church, or general body of Chris.
tians, when they were assembled together; and each was the
spiritual ruler of the Church or society which himself bad
founded. The same mode of preserving Christianity has been
continued from the earliest age to the present time.

Such was the Christianity which was established over the
world at the period when the canon of Scripture was finally closed.
The design of its great Author would have been fully accom-
plisbed, if the two great sources of error bad not perverted the
simplicity of tratb. Vice and false philosophy are the only
causes of heresy and error. The former endeavours to recon.
cile the purity and truth of Christianity with the conduct it has
forbidden, whether it be ambition, pride, or folly, through all
their differences and gradations the latter refipes, alters, ob-
jects to, or speculates upon, the doctrines of revelation, till it has
established some new theory, or removed some primitive truth.

This view of Christianity epables us to form some criterion of trulb, in the midst of all the discordant opinions of modern systems. Whatever doctrine bas been invented by later writers, whether it be gradually established, as many of the corruptions of the Romanists have been, or proposed as a more correct interpretation of Scripture, as many of the Unitarian and Ger-' man speculators have suggested their various novelties, is probably false, as it is certainly suspicious. If it was pot once received by all Christians, in the primitive ages, in all their Churches, it is probably heretical. If it is not supported by some of the facts of Scripture it is suspicious. It is not gene. rally remembered that the peculiar doctrines which characterize Christianity are all identified with acts. The facts are the foundation of the doctrine, and moral inferences are deducible from the doctrine which is thus sanctioned and established. The first creeds were very scanty, because controversies were few, and were decided by inspired or highly venerated teachers. They were enlarged, as the decisions of the Catholic Church, represented by its general councils, concluded the controversies which were commenced by the philosophy which wrongly explainod, or wilfully rejected, the faith which was generally received. The general reception of an opinion among all Churches, was esteemed a proofthat it had been originally taught by the apostles and their successors.

Such was the new faith which at the closing of the canon of Scripture, had begun to leaven the whole mass of the subjects of the imperial dominion. Even where it was not fully cmbraced, it elevated the mind, and restrained tbe conduct of many who would not openly profess it. The very philosophy which opposed or corrupted it, inculcated in various insiances the necessity of purity, the belief in one God, and the certainty of a future state.

Churches had been founded in Rome, Corinth, Crete, the cities of Asia Minor, in Britain, Spain, Italy, Antioch, and many others. The nations of the world had been brought under the Roman yoke, that a free communication might be maintained between all parts of the civilized world.

The usurpations of the Papacy had not begun, neither had the people proceeded to the opposite extreme of rejecting all government, as an infringement of their liberty. Every sepa. rate Church was a society complete in itself, governed through all its gradations of laily, and through the minor oflices of the priesthood, the deacous, and the presbyters, by one episcopal

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PERSECUTIONS IN THE THREE FIRST CENTURIES.

729 Jalian Pe- head, who was liable to be deposed by the sentence of bis own Asia Minori riod, 4799. order, if he violated the faith of Christ. Every ruler was con• Vulgar Æra, trolled by the rest of his brethren, while every independant hie.

rarchy preserved its freedom under the empire of known law.
The world bas not since bebeld more union in the belief, or more
perfection in the conduct of Christians. This was the plan which
preserved the purity of the Christian creed against the first im-
pugners of the Majesty of the Son of God. This was the polity
wbich stamped the reprobation of the general body of Christians
at Nice, upon the Arians, who denied the Godhead of Christmat
Constantinople against the Apollinarian heresy, which deny bis
humanity. It was this which condemned at Ephesus, Nestorius,
who asserted that Christ was two persons, and condemned at
Chalcedon the error of Eutyches, who confounded his twofold
nature. At that time the ghost of imperial Rome was not seated
upon the seven hills, to terrify the nations with the spiritual
thunders of the Vatican, neither was every absurdity of doc-
trine, and every irregularity in discipline, defended as a proof
of liberty, and freedom from prejudice.

The Churches of God in these early ages were opposed by every
weapon which the devices of an evil spirit, or the corruptions
of the human heart, could suggest; and their conquests were
made over its most inveterale foes. The civil and military
powers of the idolatrous governments opposed them by ten san-
guinary persecutions; and though the most eminent historian
of the last century, in imitation of a learned critic (Dodwell
Dissert. Cyprian), bas endeavoured to diminish the number of
the sufferers, the undeniable evidence which still remains, abun-
dantly demonstrates the prejudice, hatred, and cruelty of the
persecutors, and the singular union of holiness and zeal, of for-
titude and patience, among the blameless sufferers in the cause
of Christianity. We must pass over the cruel persecutions of
Nero and Domitian, in which the chief of the remaining apos.
tles, with Timothy, Onesimus, Dionysius the Areopagite, and
other illustrious names, were put to death. Neither were the
more flagitious aud abandoned of the Roman emperors, the sole
imperial adversaries of the rising Churches. A religion which
demands the homage of the heart, and permits no divided domi-
nion, even with the least known evil, is no less detested by the
mild and gentle liberality which pleads for the indulgence of the
more general vices, than it is hated by the openly corrupt.
The third persecution of the Christians under Trajan and
Adrian, and the fourth by the Antonines and Marcus Aurelius,
were even more extensive in their effects, and equally violent in
their fury. The fierce hatred of Severus, which called forth the
eloquent apology of Tertullian, and the indignant remon-
strances of Clemons Alexandrinus, and Minucius Felix-the
selfish hostility of Maximin-the unsparing severity of Decius,
who threatened death to the mitigators of the sufferings of
Cbristians—the hypocritical opposition of Valerian, the mur-
derer of Cyprian, who soothed before he slaughtered, his victims
--the unrelenting efforts of Diocletian, to extirpate the very
name and race, and Scriptures of the followers of the crucified
Jesus--all these were borne by the despised and hated Christians,
who conquered by patient endurance, and triumphed by unre-
sisting submission. The heathen raged, and the people imagined
a vain thing; and if the Christians had appealed to the sword,
as from their numbers they might bave done, their Master had
been dishonoured their service, and the world had lost the
honourable and perfect witness they bore by their sufferings, to
their conviction of the truth of the Gospel.

It was not only the menace and the torture, the rack and the

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